One contract Mr. Flagler was called upon to accept which to my surprise he at once passed with his O.K. and without a question. We had concluded to purchase the land on which one of our refineries was built and which was held on a lease from John Irwin, whom we both knew well. Mr. Irwin drew the contract for the purchase of this land on the back of a large manila envelope that he picked up in the office. The description of the property ran as such contracts usually do until it came to the phrase “the line runs south to a mullen stalk,” etc. This seemed to me a trifle indefinite, but Mr. Flagler said:
“It’s all right, John. I’ll accept that contract, and when the deed comes in, you will see that the mullen stalk will be replaced by a proper stake and the whole document will be accurate and shipshape.” Of course it turned out exactly as he said it would. I am almost tempted to say that some lawyers might sit at his feet and learn things about drawing contracts good for them to know, but perhaps our legal friends might think I was partial, so I won’t press the point.
Another thing about Mr. Flagler for which I think he deserves great credit was that in the early days he insisted that, when a refinery was to be put up, it should be different from the flimsy shacks which it was then the custom to build. Everyone was so afraid that the oil would disappear and that the money expended in buildings would be a loss that the meanest and cheapest buildings were erected for use as refineries. This was the sort of thing Mr. Flagler objected to. While he had to admit that it was possible the oil supply might fail and that the risks of the trade were great, he always believed that if we went into the oil business at all, we should do the work as well as we knew how; that we should have the very best facilities; that everything should be solid and substantial; and that nothing should be left undone to produce the finest results. And he followed his convictions of building as though the trade was going to last, and his courage in acting up to his beliefs laid strong foundations for later years.
There are a number of people still alive who will recall the bright, straightforward young Flagler of those days with satisfaction. At the time when we bought certain refineries at Cleveland he was very active. One day he met an old friend on the street, a German baker, to whom he had sold flour in years gone by. His friend told him that he had gone out of the bakery business and had built a little refinery. This surprised Mr. Flagler, and he didn’t like the idea of his friend investing his little fortune in a small plant which he felt sure would not succeed. But at first there seemed nothing to do about it. He had it on his mind for some days. It evidently troubled him. Finally he came to me and said: